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American Mania: When More is Not Enough [Paperback]

by Peter C. Whybrow
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 17, 2006 039332849X 978-0393328493 Reprint

A doctor's bold analysis of the cultural disease that afflicts us all.

Despite an astonishing appetite for life, more and more Americans are feeling overworked and dissatisfied. In the world's most affluent nation, epidemic rates of stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, and time urgency are now grudgingly accepted as part of everyday existence they signal the American Dream gone awry.

Peter C. Whybrow, director of the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA, grounds the extraordinary achievements and excessive consumption of the American nation in an understanding of the biology of the brain's reward system offering for the first time a comprehensive and physical explanation for the addictive mania of consumerism.

American Mania presents a clear and novel vantage point from which to understand the most pressing social issues of our time, while offering an informed approach to refocusing our pursuit of happiness. Drawing upon rich scientific case studies and colorful portraits, "this fascinating and important book will change the way you think about American life" (Karen Olson, Utne Reader).

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The indictment of American society offered here—that America's supercharged free-market capitalism shackles us to a treadmill of overwork and overconsumption, frays family and community ties and leaves us anxious, alienated and overweight—is familiar. What's more idiosyncratic and compelling is the author's grounding his treatise in political economy (citing everyone from Adam Smith to Thorstein Veblen) as well as in neuropsychiatry, primatology and genetics. Psychiatrist Whybrow (Mood Apart) diagnoses a form of clinical mania in which "the dopamine reward systems of the brain are... hijacked" by pleasurable frenzies like the Internet bubble. Genes are to blame: programmed to crave material rewards on the austere savanna, they go bananas in an economy of superabundance. Americans are particularly susceptible because they are descended from immigrants with a higher frequency of the "exploratory and novelty-seeking D4-7 allele" in the dopamine receptor system, which predisposes them to impulsivity and addiction. The malady is "treatable," Whybrow asserts, not with Paxil but with a vaguely defined program of communitarianism and recovery therapeutics, exemplified by his friends Peanut, a farmer rooted in the land, and Tom, a formerly manic entrepreneur who has learned to live in the present moment. Whybrow's analysis of the contemporary rat race is acute, and by medicalizing the problem he locates it in behavior and genetics—away from the arena of conventional political and economic action where more systemic solutions might surface, but toward a place where individual responsibility can turn "self-interest into social fellowship."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Whybrow has seen the future. -- New York Times, Irene Lacher

Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (April 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039332849X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393328493
  • Product Dimensions: 2.2 x 3.2 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
71 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Illuminating Book February 15, 2005
Nickname : Ram Location, Macon, Georgia, USA.

Real Name : Ramanathan S Manavasi

In his book "Our Culture of Pandering" , Paul Simon, a Director of the Public Policy Institute at the University of Southern Illinois clearly and pointedly discusses several issues -taxes, social security, civil liberties, crime - that invite pandering.

The brilliant and prophetic book "Why America's Children Cannot Think" authored by Peter Kline argues passionately for viable solutions to America's educational crisis. It offers solutions to our children concerning interpretation skills in the highly competitive information age.

What we see in America normally is a weird intermingling of high ideals with gross materialism, the lofty and vulgar cheek to cheek. The people who detest USA take a look at this odd conjunction and assume the materialistic America is the real America. The real America, they insist, is the resource wasting, TV-drenched unreflective part of the earth. The President's talk about freedom, the high toned language is just a cover, they say, for the quest for oil. Desire for riches, dominion and war.

Viewed in this context, the recent magnum opus of Dr. Peter S Whybrow's "American Mania-- When More Is Not Enough" is a wonderful and comprehensive analysis of the disease that afflicts us all. Drawing upon detailed case studies and alarming statistics of obesity, depression, and panic disorders, offers compassionate guidance offers compassionate guidance. Interestingly, he suggests that our immigrant heritage accounts for our compulsion to push for more. Migrants are by nature risk takers and reward seekers, and we've concentrated tens of millions of them in America.
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150 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is America Manic? February 22, 2005
Dr. Peter Whybrow's American Mania: When More Is Not Enough

Reviewed by Dr. David Gregory

As a cultural anthropologist, I spent decades studying the problems and opportunities of international labor migration. Later, I left academia and immersed myself in the world of international commerce and finance. My experience has left me hard to impress. I am impressed with Dr. Peter Whybrow's book, American Mania: When More is Not Enough. I found it insightful, challenging and ultimately empowering.

Dr. Whybrow invites us to look at where we have arrived after three incredible centuries, to contemplate the paradoxes of our unique prosperity and its current effects on our physical health, our state of mind, the quality of our social relations, and the future direction of our nation. He does so from a unique perspective derived from his expertise in medicine, neuroscience and evolutionary biology. His deep concern is that the "fabulous" turbo-paced, technologically driven society we Americans have built is outpacing our physiological abilities to adjust and may therefore be unsustainable. Presenting facts and provocative case studies, he offers a convincing argument that, "In our compulsive drive for more, we are making ourselves sick."

As a people we are suffering from obesity, the burdens of debt, and shallow social relations fractured by unbridled self-interest. As a result, we are taking an increasing amount of drugs in a desperate attempt to treat stress-related diseases, depression, and high blood pressure. "We are sleeping less, working longer, spending less time with our families in the manic rush to earn more money to buy more goods that leave us wanting more."

At least one critic has implied that Dr.
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41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Pleasure seeking - and its boundaries March 21, 2005
The thesis of Whybrow's book is one that rings true, "In our relentless pursuit of happiness, we have overshot the target and spawned a manic society with an insatiable appetite for more." He does a great job of clearly identifying the problem as he sets down an indictment of American society, suggesting America's supercharged free-market capitalism shackles us to a treadmill of overconsumption, fraying the family and leaving us anxious, alienated and overweight.

In attempting to diagnose the 'why' behind the 'what', Whybrow suggests "the dopamine reward systems of the brain are... hijacked, and genes are to blame: programmed to crave material rewards on the austere savanna, they go bananas in an economy of superabundance. Americans are particularly susceptible because they are descended from immigrants with a higher frequency of the "exploratory and novelty-seeking D4-7 allele" in the dopamine receptor system, which predisposes them to impulsivity and addiction."

I'm not convinced about this. America is too big a melting pot for such a seemingly broad-sweeping, all-inclusive answer. Furthermore, I question the science behind the assertion.

However, I believe he's spot on when he writes, "The mind is prone to addiction," Whybrow claims, "Everybody is capable of becoming addicted to something - wine, sex, food, exercise, the very pursuit of happiness. Paradoxically, freedom without restraint is enervating, not liberating. There's a difference between pleasure and happiness; happiness depends on limits."'

Here is the greatest contribution of the book. His statement is something which is unpopular, and at the same time corresponds with the human condition. "Happiness depends on limits.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars one of the most important books I have ever read
after living in LA for about a decade - this book really helped me put all the pieces together to better understated the world around me. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tomislav Stojanovic
5.0 out of 5 stars We are a nation of immigrants; ambitious, high achieving, immigrants.
I've always wondered why people work so much when they don't have to, to buy bigger houses, nicer cars, newer iphones; I've talked to people who work 60+ hours a week and they seem... Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. Hojnacki
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Stats
The book gave me great stats that I could use n my speaking engagements. Also had great information on the culture we have today
Published 6 months ago by Randolph Mitchell
1.0 out of 5 stars Adam Smith would laugh at this book
I've stopped reading this book after the author said that Adam Smith would not expect the society we have today, since he lived in a world where the "community" was so... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Marcelo Guterman
3.0 out of 5 stars A hard read - but gets to the point that local communities are an...
"American Mania - When more is not enough" - was a tough read, reminiscent of a textbook, but I'm glad I read it cover to cover.

Dr. Read more
Published 15 months ago by J. Meisenbacher
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, pleasant writing style but too long
Whybrow presents an interesting, thought provoking, plausible hypothesis about a combination of culture and physiology that promotes maniacal behavior but after clearly describing... Read more
Published on September 17, 2008 by C. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Chill out America!
Whybrow convincingly explains that Americans in general are biologically hardwired to be restless and oriented towards distant goals- and our condition is inimical to the very... Read more
Published on December 30, 2007 by M. Persic
4.0 out of 5 stars The book was great... but a little drawn out
"America is the riches country in the world but ranks only in the middle range among nations when it comes to happiness. Read more
Published on August 31, 2007 by Tom Carpenter
2.0 out of 5 stars Promising but puffed
I was drawn into reading this book as it promised to add interesting insights to a fascinating area: namely, contemporary culture and the human being's ability to keep pace with an... Read more
Published on December 30, 2006 by E. Ogilvie
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book written from a unique and powerful perspective
Peter Whybrow's book is well researched and offers a unique perspective on where we have arrived as culture within the last 250 years in terms of quality of life, peace, happiness... Read more
Published on May 11, 2006 by Patrick D. Goonan
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